LOL! So the human genome project has taught us see that some of the assumptions going into it were wrong (eg, as perhaps Dick Levins means, that humans including all human "races" are very closely related genetically), that the relationship between DNA sequences and protein synthesis is much more complex than we realized, and we're supposed to be SORRY that we know all this? As for the relationship between genetic variation and disease, are researchers studying very highly heritable syndomes such as autism spectrum disorders supposed to regret that we have the ability to sequence the entire genome?

This is really silliness. Sequencing the human genome was difficult and expensive the first time around (although not as expensive as a few days of war in Iraq and Afghanistan), but doing it fostered new technologies that now make it relatively easy and inexpensive. But most relevantly, it's too late! The cat is out of the bag! The genome is sequenced! That makes the protests of backwards-looking people like Robert Mann irrelevant; what is relevant, of course, is what use this technology and knowledge is put to in the future.

It's sort of the left-wing Luddite version of complaining about the WikiLeaks release of 90,000 documents concerning the war in Afghanistan. There are those who will debate forever whether it should have been done, and there are those who will discuss what should be done next now that we know what we know.


On Tue, Aug 3, 2010 at 4:48 AM, Robert Mann <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
M. Balter wrote:

For those interested in a balanced view of the potential from the human genome, see the attached news story in Nature

        and it includes:-

> Ten years on, the hopedfor revolution against human disease has not arrived


> " ... I still feel that it was overhyped to the general population," read one typical response.

        So my consistent opinion about this racket is far from eccentric; to imply that my view is unbalanced is merely a typical rhetorical smear from this peculiarly abusive party.
        Michael Goldhaber's recent comment is fine with me  -  and with many others, I suspect.
        There is no need for journalists to act as cheerleaders for such wasteful rackets.

; and for those interested in human and primate evolution, see the longer review also attached.

        Unlike the Butler vagueness, this is much more like a scientific paper.  I am content for other scientists to form their own opinion about whether this review discloses good value for all the money (let us know an approx total, could you, Michael Balter?).

 While it may well be true that the medical applications of the human genome were somewhat hyped

        Why the reservation "somewhat"?  How could this "somewhat" be justified?  I believe this biased commentator, who is all the more dangerous for his pose as an objective journalist, knows full well that the hype of the 'human genome project' has been as extreme, and as scientifically fraudulent, as any in all of history.
        This is a very serious issue.  Far too many resources  -  not only money but more tragically talent  -  have been diverted into this stupid fad which never looked like doing much good and is a long way from science for the people.

, they may still come at least partly true at some stage.

        yes, and controlled fusion may yet work  <:-|

Most importantly, however, is the need for progressive science folk to accept if not embrace, albeit critically, progress in basic research rather than take a Luddite, "told you so" attitude.

        You know perfectly well that it has nothing to do with the Luddites.
        The benefits vaguely promised by 'genome sequencing' have, predictably, turned out not to exist.  I am among those who told you so.  Why try to confuse the issue?

 Fortunately, this is a viewpoint with very little influence these days.

        How could that be fortunate?  How much money, and more importantly how many misled young scientists, have been wasted on this 'genome' racket?  Notice in the D. Butler journalism the PR-type statement, emphasized in a 'box', that
> A whopping 69% of those who responded to Nature's poll say that the human genome projects inspired them either to become a scientist or to change the direction of their research.
        How many readers noticed that Butler coyly fails to give the breakdown between those two categories?  My fear is that many did indeed change the direction of their research into this blatantly unfruitful path.

        Good to see M. Balter disagreeing with J. Celera Venter.


On Sun, Aug 1, 2010 at 11:28 PM, Robert Mann <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

                    QUOTE OF THE MONTH

Excerpt from interview by German publication Der Spiegel  with J. Celera Venter, whose team first mapped the human genome amid huge hype about cures for cancer, Parkinson's disease, ageing, etc.

SPIEGEL:  How much would you be able to learn about us by [obtaining our entire genetic information]?
Venter:  If anything, we don't really know how to read the genome and it can't tell us very much right now.  So what's the ethical debate about?

SPIEGEL:  The decoding of your personal genome has so far revealed little more than the fact that your ear wax tends to be moist.
Venter:  That's what you say.  And what else have I learned from my genome?  Very little.  We couldn't even be certain from my genome what my eye color was.  Isn't that sad?  Everyone was looking for miracle 'yes/no' answers in the genome.  "Yes, you'll have cancer."  Or "No, you won't have cancer."  But that's just not the way it is.

SPIEGEL:  So the Human Genome Project has had very little medical benefits so far?
Venter:  Close to zero to put it precisely.,1518,709174-2,00.html

                        *  *  *  *  *

        I hope I may be forgiven for intoning "I told you so".  For a decade now, I have said DNA sequences showed very little potential for any use. 


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Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
New York University

Email:  [log in to unmask]

"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist." -- Hélder Pessoa Câmara